The Ditch Part 1: Plan of Action

Van Ward, and David Brown of Davis & Brown; Fred Kinsaul, City of Darlington Water Department; Howard Garland, Darlington City Manager (standing); Mayor Pro Tem Coleman Cannon; Councilman Jimmy Cooper; and Edgard Lawton, Jr., and Edgar “Ed” Lawton, III of the Hartsville Oil Mill. Photo by Jana E. Pye

Van Ward, and David Brown of Davis & Brown; Fred Kinsaul, City of Darlington Water Department; Howard Garland, Darlington City Manager (standing); Mayor Pro Tem Coleman Cannon; Councilman Jimmy Cooper; and Edgard Lawton, Jr., and Edgar “Ed” Lawton, III of the Hartsville Oil Mill. Photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

Part 1 of a series of articles about The Ditch; continued in July 1 issue.

City officials met with Davis & Brown, Inc. and owners of the Hartsville Oil Mill on Tuesday, June 16th to formulate a plan of action to combat the issues of a malodorous ditch that traverses through the mill property and nearby homes.

City manager Howard Garland shared details of what the city plans to do. “We have discussed the particular issue of the smell on Chalmers Street and smell on Short Coker,” he said. “We have discussed some discharge issues from the mill itself, we’ve discussed the piping, we’ve talked about the City’s responsibility and we’ve talked about the oil mill’s responsibility- here’s what the City is going to do.”

“Davis & Brown is going to come up with a plan with a line going from Short Coker going down to a point and then going down over to Chalmers. And we’re going to go over the price tag on that, and we’re going to propose to council to get the funding to put it up. Also, Davis & Brown is going to do a smoke test of the sewer lines in that area to see if there’s any cracks anything that is our responsibility so, in other words, the smoke test for your information, you put smoke through a line and if you don’t see any smoke it’s good. If smoke comes up, there are cracks. So if there are cracks, we’ll fix them.

As far as the smell, we’ve had a tanker come in on Chalmer’s Street and suck that area twice. That’s taken some of the affluent which we’ve taken directly to the treatment plant and discharged of it.The other thing we are doing is putting lime out to mitigate the smell. It cuts it to a certain extent.”

According to Fred Kinsaul of the Darlington Water Department, lime has been put into the ditch just about daily on Short Coker and Chalmers Streets.

“We are looking for longer-range solutions for the waste products for the oil mill. Phosphorus that the oil mill puts out, when you run it through sandy soil, grows algae. We are hoping to send that over to the City of Florence with the CVA grant. The oil mill has worked with us on that to mitigate that situation. They have even offered up some land for a lift station and we’ve put that out for engineering work.”

This will be completed sometime this year.

“The thing that we worry about is that we understand the residents have a problem, and I asked Miss Jett to come to the council meeting and explain and express her concerns in an open meeting. We’re not trying to hide anything. But what we are also trying to do is protect the jobs for those folks at the oil mill. So, we tried to work under the radar. But, our hand has been forced a bit because people have been attacking us on Facebook, and the TV stations have been coming after us, so we’re having to get out and press this a little quicker. Plus, it’s an election year. And staff is caught in the middle. We’re doing the best we can to work with the oil mill and work with the residents in that neighborhood. The city has really been trying to work with them to alleviate the problem. But there is no quick fix to this we are trying to put this plan and implement it in as quickly as possible. I’ve been by there probably a dozen times since all this broke loose. We reported this problem to DHEC in March.”

Edward “Ed” Lawton, III, confirmed that DHEC came to the oil mill in March.

“We have a storm water plant, and we had a surprise inspection. Someone came to the plant. So that was by what we were cited on, the main storm water. And we cleaned that up. We plan on pumping the water.”

Lawton continued.

“The ditches don’t perk. They don’t drain; that’s part of the problem. The ditches don’t flow very well and on our site, this is on our site, and so we have a problem there and we’re going to try and we’re going to educate all our employees to make sure that nothing like this happens again. I don’t know how long, as best as we can. I hate it’s 102 degrees out. But, we are going to work with the city and we are going to work with Davis & Brown.”

Councilman Jimmy Cooper operates his family barbershop at the end of the street, shared the following: “I’d like to say something. Being on council, as well as being a resident and living near it, I guess we can say “The Ditch”, I applaud the oil mill and the City for coming together to solve the problem. There has been a situation been identified and fix it and solve the problem. I applaud the people sitting at this table for coming up with a plan. As well as give the oil mill a chance to incorporate with this plan and Davis & Brown to come in with their industrial expertise. So I applaud the different people sitting at the table.”

Mayor Pro Tem, Councilman Coleman Cannon agreed.

“I second what Councilman Cooper said,” said Cannon “The only way we can solve this problem is that we all get together and put our heads together- put our minds and our thoughts together. We want to preserve the jobs at the oil mill, but we also want satisfy our constituents. So it’s a combination that we all are working together. I think this is better to do rather than fighting on Facebook or going to DHEC behind our back. So, we can come together at the table to work this out.”

Howard Garland reminded the gentlemen at the table about the grants the City sought for the storm drainage problems in South East Darlington, “We’ve gotten two $500,000 grants called Renaissance Grants – we are entering Phase III of that,” said Garland. “You can count the match the City has put into the storm drainage problem it’s almost $1 million dollars including matching and grants put in we are looking to do the same for South West Darlington but we can only move so quickly. And so while we understand there’s a problem there, we have a plan in place to fix it. We are trying to build for future industrial and retail growth on the bypass. We are trying to preserve the integrity of people’s homes, we are trying to preserve jobs, and it’s a balancing act but it takes everybody working together all pulling towards the same goal, not trying to go out and throw accusations at people and throw blame on somebody. We are trying to fix it. We are not trying to go after out and hurt people’s feelings.”

David Brown, of Davis & Brown, interjected. “One thing that I would put into perspective, we’ve done some work for five years in this area and the immediate fix or long term fix would be in excess of a $1 million dollars,” he said. “An engineer’s solution is the pipe and put it across Pearl Street to the Creek. These ditches are deep. So = a big storm drainage can be a mediocre problem but it can be a huge task to fix.”

Councilman Cooper asked, “Can you describe what you were saying about digging near the ditch?”

“When we do clean the ditch, we need the approval to put a section of the ditch here that’s flowing –“ said Brown. “When we clean, we have to protect ourselves; and we have to make sure that we grade the ditch too. We can’t go clean out our stuff and all and make it a long skinny pond, if this we cut it out deeper than the algae pond so we are constrained by some to get a proper grade. But we’ll do that prior to the clean out.”

Fred Kinsaul mentioned during the June Darlington City Council meeting that a person had walked the entire length of the ditch tracing the smell.

“That was a Davis & Brown employee doing some manhole inspections for the City,” said Kinsaul. “He actually walked the whole length of the ditch to trace he smell. He did that in March. Over to the old Winn Dixie from Fitness World, all the way back to Chalmers Street and Short Coker.

Kinsaul confirmed that the City called DHEC in March.

“When we did the first sample it was a couple of days when we got some of the results.

When asked what DHEC found, Kinsaul said they have not heard anything.

“They were checking it, they did a surprise inspection on the oil mill.”

Ed Lawton said they have not been notified of the actual finding.

“We were told a response to this, but we don’t have anything official from them,” said Howard Garland. “They have talked with us over the phone and given us suggestions, but there is nothing official that has come from them.”

“We’ve shared with them,” said David Brown. “Davis &Brown took samples, and they (DHEC) didn’t take any, to my knowledge.”

I asked that I would have thought that would be the first thing they would do?

Fred Kinsaul and the gentlemen from Davis & Brown shook their head and laughed. “Well, no comment.” Lawton continued.

“She (DHEC employee) checked the five discharge areas when it rains and goes out to the ditches. And as I said, she found one that was not satisfactory. I was not at the mill. I don’t know how she got there. I talked to her on the phone and she said an employee did take her out. I asked him why he didn’t tell me she inspected, this was after it was in the paper. That is when I found out about it.”

Edgar Lawton, Jr. responded.

“Can I say something? Open ditches that have water become septic, unless they drain out. Periodically when we have a dry spell and the ditches went septic and that caused the heat and the rain. If the ditch drained, the water would not stand water. The Darlington soil does not perk. It doesn’t channel down like in sandy soil, it just stays there.”

Ed Lawton, III, added, “The oil mill was built on a swamp. In a way, that’s good, because nothing will ever get into the ground water. On the other hand, you can’t get water off the property. And for example if you lived right across the street from where the trucks pull, that’s the same sort of soil. We tried to get it paved, but they won’t allow us to pave, to try to try to clean it up.”
Howard: Interjects, “That’s DOT (Department of Transportation).”

“But that if you were to sample it, it probably would be similar to what we are seeing in the ditches. Because when the trucks pull out,” continued Lawton. “We go out there periodically and level it out with lime and so forth and so on to try to make that a little bit better. But the puddles, they still sit there for …they are probably filled up there now with that rain it’s been so hot.”
Cooper interjected.

“I’d also like to add, what he said about the residents and employment issue,” said Cooper. “I want to applaud the City Manager for inviting the people to come tell us about the issue, council that’s our job as council to come in and answer concerns and issues our constituents have so for any other situation they would have instead of going about it in sub various ways, come to council and that’s what we are there for. Get on an organized fashion before council and we can come together and come up with solutions.”

Garland said the City will request help from the Darlington County Council by asking for help with labor from the inmates of Darlington County Detention Center.

When asked if this issue goes beyond City limits, if this is also a County issued, Garland replied:

“The larger issue of storm drainage in the county in the South Darlington Watershed project, where a lot of this goes to, and that has not been addressed by County Council.” Said Garland. “That’s beyond my pay grade, and beyond the pay grade of everyone in this room. They have been talking about for 24 years.”

Ed Lawton, III agreed.

“You live in Hartsville. There’s Jefferies Creek there, and Black Creek Watershed. And since they put the hospital in and all that, and the new recreation center (Byerly Park Sports Complex) the storm water has all changed.”

Garland added, “And they build the Junior High, too.”

“That used to be a farm they planted corn when I first started working,” said Lawton, III. “They planted corn fields. It was a small mill. There were no houses around us, and we were pretty much out in the country. We were not in the city limits. And, now we are. And as you well know, there are more people living in the area. And that’s why we are getting some complaints. But we are doing the best we can to evolve and try and change.

“ And, nobody is running from anything,” added Garland. “This is my hometown. And we will do our best to fix it with the resources that we have. I’ve never tried to hide anything from council. Whether its good news or bad news, it’s my job to tell them.”

Mayor Pro Tem Coleman Cannon added:

“I have to say, what they have done in South East Darlington, it’s a lot better now. Davis & Brown and the City did a good job. They will with this, too.”

Author: Duane Childers

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